Timberline ski lodge on Oregon's Mt. Hood (see cover) lay abandoned in 1955 when 29-year-old Richard Kohnstamm, wealthy member of a wealthy family, took over its operation. Built by the U.S. Government in the 1930s to provide facilities for nearby Portland's 370,000 people, this fine recreation area had been all but ruined by mismanagement. Electricity at the lodge had been cut off, snow filtered through its broken windows, its chair lift lay deserted.
Only a weekend skier himself, Kohnstamm went to work on the property with a professional's thoroughness. He borrowed money on his life insurance for initial capital, decked out waitresses and bellhops in dirndls and Lederhosen, even lent his features to an advertisement in which he posed as a Timberline waiter serving a Martini. As business picked up, he instituted Sno-Cat service, built a new $150,000 chair lift, added a $70,000 swimming pool.
Looking back on Timberline's predicament, Kohnstamm admits to a little apprehension. "People were a little mad when I took over," he says. "They thought I was going to cater strictly to the moneyed skiers. I had to show them we wanted kids to have fun without littering up the place with paper-bag lunches."
Today, after five years of sweat and $400,000 of expenditures, energetic Richard Kohnstamm presides over a year-round operation that draws some 500,000 visitors a season and finally shows a profit on the ledger. "All I've done," he says, "is get people to respect Timberline again. Joe Skier makes it go."